By Mellow DeTray
Here’s our recap of the Des Moines City Council meeting held on Thursday night, Jan. 4, 2024:
New Mayor & Deputy Mayor Elected
The meeting began with nominations for the 2024-2025 Mayor. Councilmember Harry Steinmetz nominated Councilmember Traci Buxton, while Councilmember JC Harris nominated himself.
Traci Buxton was elected mayor in a 6–1 vote.
Selection of the Deputy Mayor followed. Councilmember Matt Mahoney nominated Harry Steinmetz. Newly elected Councilmember Yoshiko Grace Matsui nominated Councilmember Gene Achziger. Councilmember Harris again nominated himself. In a statement, he explained that he believes he is the best qualified for the position, and that he wants to dial back the duties for both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor positions. Harry Steinmetz was chosen to be Deputy Mayor in a 4–2–1 vote, with Grace Matsui and Achziger voting for Achziger, and Harris voting for himself.
It was noted at the meeting’s start that Councilmember JC Harris opted out of the ceremonial swearing-in of councilmembers.
The lone public comment was a local business owner thanking the council for creating the program to reimburse businesses for property damage. Her place of business was destroyed in a fire that was deemed “unintentional arson,” and has been shut down since Dec. 6, 2023. A local church stepped in to provide her temporary space to practice her business. She went to Interim City Manager Tim George and even though the funds for the small business reimbursement program had all been used up, he was able to give her $1,000 towards keeping her business going. She will be spending it on security cameras.
City Manager’s Report
Interim City Manager Tim George explained that the evening’s agenda was quite light, but to be prepared for a much busier meeting next week, when council will be discussing the creation of the finance committee, as well as other big-ticket items.
Councilmember Grace Matsui received support to create a proclamation in honor of Korean American Day. Much discussion ensued, as there wasn’t clarity around the process of creating a new proclamation, particularly with a time constraint. Jan. 13, 2024 is Korean American Day, but the proclamation will be made at the following meeting.
Councilmember Gene Achziger said that since it is an El Niño year, we can expect a very dry summer again. Dry summers now mean wildfire and smoke season. With this expected in a matter of months, Achziger pushed to prioritize creating an emergency weather shelter for those without access to air conditioning or clean air. It has already been determined that updating the HVAC in the activity center would cost $250,000, and city staff are seeking grants to fund this upgrade. Currently, certain churches are operating as emergency weather shelters in times of hazardous conditions. The city will continue seeking the needed grant funding.
Councilmember JC Harris addressed air quality issues as well, saying that pollutants need to be measured at elementary schools as children are most at risk. He stated that lead from auto emissions lowered the IQ of every person on Earth by 10 points, and now jet fuels are doing something similar. The airline industry, like the auto industry before it, is fighting regulation and control. Harris said that the city should at least be compensated for the damage these pollutants are doing in the community. He asked interested members of the public to sign up for the Seatac Airport Roundtable to discuss the issue.
Watch full video of the council meeting here.
Mellow DeTray is a Seattle native who has spent the last 16 years raising her family in Burien. She has volunteered at many local establishments over the years, including the Burien Library, Burien Actors Theatre, and Hot Feet Fitness. After working for 10 years at Burien Community Center, she moved on to teaching fitness classes and to work the front desk of a Burien yoga studio. For many years Mellow kept a moderately popular cooking & lifestyle blog, and she had a brief stint in political journalism during a local election. Clear and informative writing has always been a side hobby of Mellow’s and she looks forward to bringing you unbiased coverage of City Council meetings.